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Gatorade Athlete Of The Month

Each month during the season in 2019, one male and female League1 Ontario athlete will be selected as the Gatorade Athlete(s) of the Month!

The selected players will have matched their on-field performance, which includes goals scored or shutouts, and minutes played, with off-field attributes that champion leadership, community values and more.

Those selected will earn exclusive prizing from Gatorade Canada, the official sports fuel of League1 Ontario.

To collect their prizing, award-winners should come to League1 Ontario office (during weekday business hours) at:

Ontario Soccer Centre, 7601 Martin Grove Rd., Vaughan, ON. 

Congratulations to the Gatorade Athlete(s) of the Month for August 2019! 

Men's - Lucas Birstingl (Oakville Blue Devils)

Women's - Jade Kovacevic (FC London) 

After playing every minute of all 15 regular season matches, Oakville Blue Devils' Lucas Birstingl racked up a remarkable 10 clean sheets and conceded only eight goals in total over the 2019 season. Four of those goals were in one match, to give further sense of the overall accomplishment. 

Birstingl was clearly a major factor in the Blue Devils taking another regular season title - their third since joining the league - and he's already off to a good start in playoffs. His two clean sheets against Woodbridge in the Quarter-Final stage were instrumental in helping Oakville into the Semi-Final stage against Masters FA. 

The 29 year-old keeper is no stranger to the big stage, having played professionally in Scotland with Airdrieonians from 2014-2015.

*Notable Mentions: Adam Czerkawski (Masters FA); Francis Ameyaw (Masters FA); Adel Rahman (North Mississauga SC); Jared Maloney (North Mississauga SC); Kevin DaSilva (Alliance United)*

We've completely run out of superlatives for FC London's Jade Kovacevic. 

There was only one name that could have possibly topped the POTM category after the 2019 Golden Boot winner propelled her team through playoffs with an average of two goals per match. 

She only scored one goal in the final, but it was of course the one that mattered - a Championship winner in the 84th minute. 

Kovacevic has simply been the class of the entire league since London joined up in 2016. It's not just that she won every Golden Boot and MVP award since, or even that she's captained London to three titles - the most of any club in League1 - but the manner in which she has done so.

A better example of sporting ideals - respect for the opponent, leadership by example, a never-say-die attitude, and peerless skill leading to consistent top performance among one's peers - could not be found.

A perfect example of Kovacevic's character was in the Championship Final, pausing at the most important moment of the match, when many athletes would have simply milked the clock to ensure their victory, to help an injured opponent off the pitch. Sheer class.   

*Notable Mentions: Mahira Ali (Oakville Blue Devils); Marisa Oliveira (FC London); Julia Benati (FC London); Laura Twidle (Oakville Blue Devils); Jessie Faber (Vaughan SC); Vanessa Fiore (Woodbridge Strikers)*

Congratulations to the Gatorade Athlete(s) of the Month for July 2019! 

Men's - Maksym Kowal (Vaughan SC)

Women's - Mahira Ali (Oakville Blue Devils) 

Currently tied at the top of the League1 Golden Boot standings with FC London's Connor Wilson going into Matchweek 15 - the final week of 2019 regular season matches - Vaughan's Maksym Kowal has been a revelation in the number nine role for the Azzurri this year.

A former professional in England (Tiverton Town, Barnstaple, Carlton Town), Poland (Lodz, Rakow etc.) and New Zealand (Tasman United, Canterbury United), the 28 year old Ukrainian Canadian forward is used to the pressure of needing to bang in the goals. 

And he's done so in key moments throughout the season, opening or closing the scorekeeping in important matches versus Darby, Oakville, Woodbridge, Masters and - in the month of July - a big hat-trick over Durham United to secure the Azzurri's spot in the top three heading into their final match pattern. 

Even in the single match that the Azzurri couldn't get a result from - the 3-1 home defeat by Alliance United - Kowal still located a half-opportunity to finish a header off a corner.

A striker with the finishing instinct for half chances and the necessary composure to finish the good ones, Kowal has ticked all the right boxes in helping the defending League1 Champions to a guaranteed top three finish in the league heading into playoff selection. 

*Notable Mentions: Connor Wilson (FC London); Nikola Stakic (Alliance United); Kenny Lioutas (Alliance United); Evan James (Oakville Blue Devils); Adel Rahman (North Mississauga SC)*

A former captain of the Egypt U19 team and capped at senior level, Oakville Blue Devils forward Mahira Ali has been a talisman for the team since arriving in the 2018 season. In 2019, she was one of several standout leaders that helped guide the Blue Devils to first position in the 2019 Regular Season.

A runner-up for the Golden Boot in both 2018 and 2019, Ali smashed in 18 goals in 13 appearances and was second only to FC London's Jade Kovacevic - who has won the Golden Boot for the past four seasons.

In possession of excellent spatial awareness and a toolbox of technical skills, Ali's finishes have been showcased on virtually every highlight reel since joining the league. A 2018 finish against Aurora FC, when she left two defenders and the keeper helpless on the deck in the six-yard box as she faked and pulled three times, was a worthy 2018 Goal of the Year. 

In 2019, she increased her output and consistency: in four July matches, for example, she bagged two braces and a single. 

*Notable Mentions: Kaitlin Tolnai (Woodbridge SC); Lauren Hart (Woodbridge SC); Marisa Oliveira (FC London); Leah Pais (Vaughan SC)*  

Congratulations to the Gatorade Athlete(s) of the Month for June 2019! 

Women's - Jessie Faber (Vaughan SC) 

Men's - Brandon Duarte (Oakville Blue Devils)

A force to be reckoned with in the 2019 season, Vaughan SC is currently top of the women's division with an 8-1-1 record and only eight goals against in 10 matches. 

A big part of the success has been player Jessie Faber, whose goalscoring exploits and overall play have been remarkable.

Faber has 11 goals in only 790 minutes of play, which means she's good for a goal every 72 minutes she is on the pitch. It also means she's third in the Golden Boot race behind Oakville's Mahira Ali and London's Jade Kovacevic, with only four goals to close the gap on the award. 

Her play in June was off the charts, scoring eight goals in just five matches and keeping Vaughan ahead of some in-form opposition as well. 

Faber played for the McMaster University Marauders during her post-secondary career and was an OUA All-Star in 2017, highly-regarded for her vision on the ball and goal-scoring touch. 

*Notable mentions: Mahira Ali (Oakville Blue Devils); Kiyani Johnson (Vaughan SC); Courtney Chochol (Aurora FC); Laura Gosse (Alliance United)*  

Oakville Blue Devils are currently tied for second in the men's division and a massive part of their success has been the stellar play of forward, Brandon Duarte. 

Leading the Blue Devils for goals with six to his name, Duarte got four of his tallies in the month of June and helped the Devils to a five match unbeaten streak by time of publication.

Currently a senior at St. John's University in New York, Duarte is known at all levels for his offensive threat and capabilities.  

His creativity and flair on the ball has led Duarte to be a marked man by defenders across League1; one of his most memorable goals from 2018 was also short-listed as a goal of the year contender

*Notable mentions: Leaford Allen (Sigma FC); Nikola Stakic (Alliance United); Filipe Vilela (Aurora FC); Alistar Johnson (Vaughan Azzurri)*

Congratulations to the Gatorade Athlete(s) of the Month for May 2019! 

Women's - Jade Kovacevic (FC London) 

Men's - Praveen Ahilan (Alliance United FC)

FC London's Jade Kovacevic wins her third Gatorade Athlete of the Month award in May 2019!

The striker extraordinaire played every minute of FC London's three matches and scored 7 goals, including a hat-trick and two braces.

Kovacevic is no stranger to winning multiple awards in League1, having won the League1 MVP and Golden Boot awards for three years running.

Her talent and long-running list of achievements at every level she has played (NCAA, CCAA, League1) led to a professional signing in 2018, during which she was picked up by Italian side Roma CF in Serie B.

Out of contract for the summer period, Kovacevic is back in the red and black of London and leading the team and league as per usual. 

*Notable mentions: Clarissa Larissey (OSU Force); Lauryn Arruda (Darby FC); Mahira Ali (Oakville Blue Devils); Kiyani Johnson (Vaughan SC)*   

Alliance United FC got off to the best possible start in their sophomore League1 men's season, racking up four straight wins, nine goals for, and absolutely none against. 

A big piece of the puzzle for the team affectionately known as "Orange Crush" is keeper Praveen Ahilan. Ahilan played every minute of Alliance's matches and his safe hands ensured the four clean sheets and no chance of the team being beaten. 

Ahilan is well known in OUA circles after consistently finishing at the top of All-Star and goalkeeper statistic lists and he's showing the same quality and assurance at the provincial pro-am level. 

*Notable mentions: Maksym Kowal (Vaughan Azzurri); Filipe Vilela (Aurora FC); Ken Lioutas (Alliance United FC)*

Congratulations to all Gatorade Athlete of the Month in 2018 League1 Ontario season! 

October:

Men's - Kadell Thomas (Sigma FC) 

September: 

Men's - Dylan Sacramento (Vaughan Azzurri)

A regular in League1 Ontario All-Star lists over the past few seasons, high-flying forward Kadell Thomas certainly didn't take his foot off the gas in the new 2018 playoff format.

Thomas played every minute of Sigma's three matches in the Group B group stage, snagging a goal against Woodbridge in their opener, two against Unionville, and one in the Mississauga academy's final match-up with Oakville Blue Devils. 

Thomas clearly had a point to prove in front of Canadian Premier League (CPL) scouts watching the high-profile League1 playoffs, and you can hear him essentially state his intentions in this video feature that was released just ahead of the playoffs.

Thomas' breathless pace, agility, creativity and control in tight areas has been a hallmark of the Sigma team for several seasons, and he would be a great pick-up for the next level of competition when CPL hits the pitch in 2019. 

Will Thomas follow head coach Bobby Smyrniotis to his new position in Hamilton at Forge FC? Only time will tell... 

Congratulations Kadell Thomas on being selected the Gatorade Athlete of the Month for October!

The name Dylan Sacramento was on everyone's lips that watched Vaughan Azzurri dominate the group stage section of the new and revised 2018 playoff format and, ultimately, guide his side to the 2018 League1 Ontario Championship title.

His game-winning goal in the Championship match was hardly a surprise to anyone that has tracked the central midfielder's play; Sacramento has a habit of scoring big goals. [Ed. Sacramento also scored the first ever League1 Ontario goal, way back in 2014]

However, what was perhaps most impressive was the work Sacramento did to help Vaughan back from an awful beginning to their 2018 campaign. Getting only two wins in their first five matches, Vaughan stampeded through the rest of the season, losing only twice and drawing one match from June 10 - October 20.  

The former TFC Academy and NCAA Florida Gulf Coast star was in red-hot form through this period, and his month of September in particular was off the charts. 

Nine goals in five games was the cherry on the top of Sacramento's overall 2018 record of fourteen goals in fourteen regular season appearances. 

Check out what Sacramento's head coach, Carmine Isacco, had to say about the player, and keep an eye out for his name when CPL rosters begin to roll out in the near future! 

Congratulations Dylan Sacramento on being selected the Gatorade Athlete of the Month for September!

Congratulations to the Gatorade Athlete(s) of the Month for August: 

Men's - Anthony Novak (Oakville Blue Devils)

Women's - Jade Kovacevic (FC London)

Although all is yet to be decided in the 2018 League1 men's division, Oakville Blue Devils have to date defended their 2017 League1 Ontario crown with a strong 2018 league performance - one that was well-balanced with their historic involvement in the 2018 Canadian Championship - currently holding one of the top two best defensive records in the league (nine goals conceded in 15 matches) and the third highest scoring output (37 goals scored in 15 matches). 

Far and away the top scorer in the Oakville Blue Devils' ranks is forward Anthony Novak, whose consistent scoring exploits have led him to lead the league Golden Boot chart with just a few matches remaining in the calendar. 

Novak's consistency in front of net has been evident over his years as a Blue Devil (the forward has been a fixture in starting lineups since Oakville joined the league in 2015), and none more so than in August 2018. Novak scored eight goals in four games to bring his tally to 18 on the season - six clear at the top of the chart with the nearest competitor six goals behind.

Oakville head into their final league match with Darby FC looking to secure a minimum of fourth place positioning in the table, and subsequent home pitch advantage in the playoffs.

In any case, if Novak is to hang on to win the Golden Boot, Oakville will become the first men's team to make history in the category - the team will have produced two league leading scorers (joint-Golden Boot winner Filipe Vilela in 2015 and Novak in 2018).

Congratulations Anthony Novak on being selected the Gatorade Athlete of the Month for August!

The name Jade Kovacevic will be familiar to any follower of League1, with the FC London forward having dominated headlines and awards since her club joined the league in 2016.

Kovacevic has been selected as League1 women's MVP for two years running, has been in every All-Star team, and led the league in scoring for both seasons. She can now add a third scoring title to her long list of achievements...

Kovacevic sustained a bad injury in mid-June and was out of competition for a month and a half, returning at the start of August. She wasted no time resuming her red-hot goal scoring form, scoring six in just four August matches. 

In all, Kovacevic registered 19 goals in just 11 matches in 2018, which was good for a rate of 1.7 GPG - second only to her 2.0 GPG strike rate in 2017 when she finished 40 times in 20 appearances, and ahead of her 2016 output of 26 goals in 16 games (1.6 GPG). 

In fact, Kovacevic's all-time total of 85 goals in league matches makes her the League1 Ontario all-time league leading scorer in either men's or women's divisions!

Congratulations Jade Kovacevic on being selected the Gatorade Athlete of the Month for August!

Congratulations to the Gatorade Athlete(s) of the Month for July: 

Men's - Connor Wilson (FC London)

Women's - Mahira Ali (Oakville Blue Devils) 

FC London has had an outstanding season to date, currently sitting in third position with a record of 8-2-2, and many of their top attacking highlights have arrived off the boot of top scorer, Connor Wilson. 

Wilson scored an average of a goal a game in the month of July, taking himself to the top of the Golden Boot rankings for some time (at time of press, Wilson is on ten goals - only one off top position in the Golden Boot race).

Wilson's regular scoring habits (one in three matches in May, four in three matches in June, one in two matches thus far in August) have provided a sharp end to the stick for London, allowing the Southern Ontario side to maintain their strong possession game with the assurance that a goal will be found. 

A converted midfielder, Wilson broke into the London first team in 2017, and personifies the club's commitment to homegrown products. 

He's also begun his post-secondary playing years at Western University in fine form, selected OUA Rookie of the Year (West) in 2017.

Congratulations Connor Wilson on being selected the Gatorade Athlete of the Month for July!

The Oakville Blue Devils' women's team went right to the wire in the 2018 playoff race - a great achievement in the team's first season - and much of attacking clout was due to their Egyptian talisman, Mahira Ali.

A former captain of the U19 Egypt team, and capped several times at senior level as well for her country, Ali is on holiday in Canada for the year and stumbled upon the Blue Devils through a connection with one of the team's centre-backs, Rana Hamdy.

The rest has been history, with Ali leading the team in scoring with 16 goals in only 643 minutes - good for a goal every half of play! Ali is the runner-up in the 2018 Golden Boot rankings. 

Oakville won every match that Ali appeared in, except for the final league fixture against Woodbridge Strikers, although Ali even found a way to score in that 5-3 loss. 

Learn more about Ali's story here - in the League1 Extra video magazine.

Congratulations Mahira Ali on being selected the Gatorade Athlete of the Month for July!

  

Congratulations to the Gatorade Athlete(s) of the Month for June: 

Men's - Afram Gorgees (Toronto FC III)

Women's - Diamond Simpson (Woodbridge Strikers) 

A marauding right back for the Junior Reds, Afram Gorgees is also remarkably the top scorer for TFC III and a major reason why the team has been top of the table since the start of the 2018 season. 

Gorgees scored five goals in TFC III's three league games in June, along with one goal in the team's single Cup game in June (June 23 v Pro Stars).

This scoring record has also put Gorgees in a three-way tie for second in the League1 Golden Boot race.

He's been doing the business at the defensive end too of course, allowing only five goals in seven matches over the season, and only one goal in league play in June and none in Cup play over the month. 

Born in Iraq, Gorgees has played for Canada at the U15 and U17 levels and is a player to watch on the national scene for the future. 

Congratulations Afram Gorgees on being selected the Gatorade Athlete of the Month for June!

Woodbridge Strikers' defender Diamond Simpson is one of the many weapons in a Woodbridge side that is stacked with talent. 

Simpson's highlight reel June moment was in the game winner vs Aurora on June 10, with a solo run from half to beat a defender before unleashing a laser into the top corner from 30+ yards. That strike will certainly be in contention for goal of the season.

A 90 minute player with the Strikers in June league and Cup play, Simpson has also had a important role in making sure the Strikers are joint-first in League1 for goals against and one of only two undefeated teams undefeated in league play.

The Strikers are also currently tied for fourth place, but have one to two games in hand on those they are tied with and all teams above (two points out of third position; three points out of second; ten points out of first).

Further, the Strikers also have the best goal differential in the L1 Cup competition, having been scored on only once in two matches and scoring seven, with a spot in the semi-finals against De Ro coming up on July 22.

Simpson has been a key figure in the team's success and if one glances at her player CV - you can see why. A member of the national program since she was U17, Simpson has represented Canada all over the world. 

Simpson broke into the Canadian Women's National Team in 2010, and has four senior caps to her name as well.

Congratulations Diamond Simpson on being selected Gatorade Athlete of the Month for June!

Congratulations to the Gatorade Athlete(s) of the Month for May: 

Men's - Marcel Zajac (Sigma FC)

Women's - Jade Kovacevic (FC London) 

Sigma FC's Marcel Zajac has been on a roll this season, scoring wonder goals for his club that have regularly been centre-pieces in the weekly highlights. 

But Zajac is far more than just a goalscorer. His movement off the ball, eye for a killer pass, and toolbox of skills make him an incredibly dangerous weapon for the Mississauga-based academy. 

Six goals in two league games, and two goals in one L1 Cup game, in May has been the obvious fruit of Zajac's labours, which has been enough to put him top of the scoring chart and help keep Sigma on an unbeaten run that has them within striking distance of first place. 

Congratulations Marcel Zajac on being selected Gatorade Athlete of the Month for May!

FC London's Jade Kovacevic needs no introduction for League1 Ontario followers. 

The captain of FC London - current league and L1 Cup holders - has been an unstoppable force for London over the past few seasons, appearing to shred opposing defences at will. 

Kovacevic picked up where she left off last season (when she won the League1 Golden Boot and the Women's Division MVP awards) by scoring a whopping 7 goals in just four games in May and guiding FC London back to the top of the table with an unbeaten start to 2018.

Her unflagging leadership, sportsmanship and goalscoring prowess makes for a worthy winner of this Gatorade Athlete of the Month award for May.

Congratulations Jade Kovacevic on being selected Gatorade Athlete of the Month for May!